Local Music 'Mericans: Michelle Pelissero Turned Part-Time Gigs and Internships Into a Full-Time Position with Kirtland Records
Welcome to Local Music'Mericans, where we'll be meeting some people behind the local music scene who aren't musicians, but more behind-the-scenes folk.
Michelle Pelissero can be seen working at some of the luckiest of spots -- like rinkside at a Dallas Stars game or dead-center in front of a lot of concerts, snapping pics of the headliner.
If you were at the last Dia De Los Toadies, you might also have seen her working backstage.
Add to that the fact that Pelissero also recently scored herself a full-time position with Kirtland records, home to Smile Smile, The Toadies, Sarah Jaffe, and others. Impressive stuff, especially considering that Pelissero is just 25 years old. She's a bit of a youngster to the scene -- and even moreso in her first impressions, standing a spry 5-foot-3, and smiling innocently enough from under a set of piercing blue eyes.
To scenesters, concertgoers and NHL fans that don't know her, she might even appear harmless and inexperienced. And, well, maybe she was at one time. But, these days, Michelle has forged a path for herself in her areas of passion and turned them into paying career outlets -- something a lot of twentysomething music fans daydream of doing, but rarely accomplish.
After the jump, we'll bend Michelle's ear for the recipe of what has been, so far, a very well-thought-out plan for success in getting your foot firmly in the door in the local entertainment scene.
Take us back to your humble career beginnings in the DFW sports and music scenes. Tell us the the roles you have held, and about the ones you hold now.
I started getting involved with the entertainment industry back at Allen High School, taking yearbook and newspaper photos. My favorite thing to shoot was concerts and sports, so I guess that part hasn't changed. I won some awards at the JEA/NSPA National High School convention, and landed an internship with the Allen American newspaper. It started with mostly police reports and city history blurbs. But I eventually was able to get some full-fledged articles out of it. I moved to Denton and started at UNT after that to work on my degree in public relations. I got an internship with a local PR agency, and, at the same time, I also began interning at Clear Channel Radio. I got hired there part-time eventually, and stayed for about two and half years. Working there opened up a lot of doors for me -- it helped me land my job with the Dallas Stars, which I started in January 2008. That was one of those random applications I put out in response to their online job board, and was completely thrown off when I actually got an interview. I was so excited. I pulled an "interview no-no" there: The woman interviewing me asked what was one thing I felt I needed to work on, and I said that I was often late to work. So, needless to say, I was shocked I got hired.
So, at this point, it's early 2008, and things are starting to pick up momentum for you.
Yeah, I started working for Gorilla Productions then. I found out about that job through an ad on Craigslist. They called and hired me right then and there. I'd never even met these people. I was told that me and the other girl that was hired would be working at Curtain Club in Deep Ellum. We would completely run and emcee battle of the bands competitions. The best part about this job was the staff at Curtain. I love them all to death and still go up there to hang out. I wound up leaving Gorilla a few months around the same time as the big layoff at Clear Channel. I couldn't stand how the entire show was based on ticket sales and some of the most talented bands would play at 3 p.m. and have no one there to see them. Since I'm not a musician myself, I've always just wanted to help the truly talented and passionate musicians make their dream a career. I know that kinda sounds stupid, but its true. This contest wasn't one based on talent, and that irritated me to the quitting point. I began interning at Kirtland Records after that. I worked there simultaneously with the Stars and Staples -- which sounds funny -- until October of last year when I was hired on full-time with Kirtland. I think I was in my role as Assistant Manager at Staples for about three months before I got the promotion at Kirtland. So, eight years later, I was finally able to start doing what I loved to do full-time!
During this whole period, you were photographing concerts for Clear Channel Dallas too, right?
Throughout the time when I started until now. I still take photos of shows -- I've shot ZZ Top, Alice in Chains, Kings of Leon, Toadies, Maroon 5, Korn, Massive Attack, tons of others.
Take us back to your humble beginnings of DFW music inspiration -- a song, a show, a band, a moment, whatever. What got you started in wanting to get involved?
I've always been obsessed with music. When I was little, I would practice singing The Little Mermaid soundtrack. The times when I feel most inspired and lucky is when I have the opportunity to take photos of a show. Watching a show from behind a lens is fascinating -- that's when you truly capture a musician's love for their art. I also love seeing the fans in the front row, and feeling all that energy. It's amazing.
OK, then, same question, but with photography: What was your turning point where, say, some sort of light bulb went off inside you and you decided to exploit your penchant for the visual arts? A picture you saw, maybe? One you took yourself?
I'd say high school really helped me out with photography. Winning a national award kinda made think I might actually be good at this. Of course, I'm my toughest critic and I still think I have a long way to go. But I'm really just grateful for the chance to take photos of shows. It's something not many people get to do.
A lot of your work places you within arm's length of what I imagine would be some pretty charismatic male celebrity figures. Is it hard to focus on the task at hand sometimes amidst such distractions?
Good question! I'd have to say hockey is the hardest as far as male distractions -- let's face it, Dallas has a good looking hockey team. But, really, when I'm working it's strictly professional and although there is that attraction/slightly girly crush on some players, it's a work environment and you gotta push through what may be considered a distraction and do what you're assigned that night.
Anything crazy ever happen at any of the live concerts that you've shot? Maybe a close call with a rockstar or an overzealous fan?
The main thing that sticks out is when I was shooting Edgefest one year, and I was up in the trenches with a few other photogs waiting to shoot Korn when a metal flask zinged past my head. I've also have gotten kicked in the head by crowd surfers, etc. My favorite overzealous fan ever was at Alice in Chains. This woman was hilarious and she thought she was the hottest thing on the planet. She kept incessantly flirting with every male musician back at the meet and greet. Well, it came down to her getting to meet Chevelle and get a photo op with them, when she reached out and grabbed a big handful of one of the band members' asses. The look on his face was completely priceless.
If time and money weren't the issue, what local band would you totally get behind, and back until they got the recognition they deserved.
I absolutely love House Harkonnen, Telegraph Canyon, The Orange, Air Review and Radiant. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few others, but I'm always going to these bands shows.
How'd you land your gig with Kirtland?
I'd say persistence was definitely key to landing a full-time position with Kirtland. The first time I had ever heard about Kirtland was actually at an Edge event with the Burden Brothers at the Granada. While we were on the bus, I met Dale and got his card. I kept emailing them my resume for years until finally one day I got a call from them asking me to come in for an interview. I was completely floored. I remember I had two other interviews that day for marketing jobs, which didn't go all that well. For my Kirtland interview, I pretty much walked in, talked to [Kirtland rep] Tami Thomsen for about 10 minutes, and she asked me right on the spot when I could start. So I wound up interning there twice a week. During my internship, I made sure to let them know that I was interested in a full-time position -- very persistant again. Then, one day at work Tami called me in to her office and offered me the position. I was so excited. I had always wanted to work for a record label and I had finally done it!
Where do you hope to take all this from here? If you could guide your career in whatever direction you desire, where would you take it?
All I really know at this point is that I want to travel the world one day, and I want to work in music. I'm really happy with my life right now, because I finally feel like I'm on the right track. I just hope that I can have a job in the music industry for the rest of my working days. I've always wanted to scout talent, so A&R would be cool. So would tour managing, booking, or maybe even owning my own label someday.
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